Lamar Consolidated ISD has removed seven books from its library shelves, including popular fiction such as "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," and is reviewing them for permanent removal over complaints about inappropriate content from parents and community members, according to the district.
The district’s decision to review the books came shortly after parents spoke at a 2021 board meeting, questioning whether some material was appropriate because of sexual content.
But while the district didn’t directly connect the move to any larger trends, an academic expert who has studied the increase in opposition to some books in school libraries says school districts across the country have come under fire in recent months thanks, in part, to organized conservative opposition to some kinds of reading materials.
Parental opposition to some books in public schools isn’t new, and has been happening on-and-off again for decades now, according to Richard Price, a political science professor at Webster State University in Utah. But the latest debates over books have been spurred, in large part, by organized conservative political opposition, not to general sexual content, but rather to any books depicting LGBTQ issues, Price said.
“Being a librarian is not easy, especially when you are in a political movement when conservatives are leading a broad war on books,” Price said.
The seven books under review in Lamar Consolidated ISD are "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" by Jesse Andrews; "Forever for a Year" by B.T. Gottfred; "Jack of Hearts" by Lev Rosen; "All Boys Aren’t Blue" by George Johnson; "The Breakaways" by Cathy Johnson; "The Nerdy and the Dirty" by B.T. Gottfred; and "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison, according to documents provided to the Fort Bend Star through an open records request.
It’s not clear exactly what parents oppose in all seven books under review, though some of the books do contain LGBTQ themes.
Parents who speak in opposition to books in school libraries often say they are doing so because of inappropriate sexual content, Price said. But the trend is clearly selective as some classic literature with sexual themes remains unchallenged, while newer books that speak to minority issues take up the majority of challenged lists, Price said.
The trend of challenging books in libraries hasn’t yet arrived everywhere in Fort Bend County. Fort Bend ISD has yet to announce any specific look at books in its libraries.
And administrators with Fort Bend County Libraries have yet to receive any official complaints about books, said Michele Pettigrew, spokesperson for the library system.
But Katy ISD, near the edge of Fort Bend County, has gone so far as to create an online portal for parents to submit complaints about books and has removed several books from its libraries, in response to parental concern, according to an article on the website for Houston television station ABC13.
Parents across the country are organizing in opposition to certain books and sharing lists of content they oppose through Facebook parent groups and other online message boards, Price said.
The issue reached the point in November that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans to develop statewide standards to shield students from pornography and obscene content in public schools that some parents have found objectionable. Most of the content has dealt with LGBTQ issues.
Because the current trend toward opposing certain books in public libraries is so organized, it’s not clear when it might end, Price said.